Bernie on the Scene: These Players Deserve Some Buzz

Bernie on the Scene: These Players Deserve Some Buzz

This article is part of our Bernie on the Scene series.

Today I will begin a new, three-part series where I highlight players from both leagues I believe are still a bit under the radar but deserve fantasy baseball attention.

Fantasy Baseball Team managers may not find these players on the waiver wire, but they are clearly good trade candidates for the second half of the season.

I will do one article on American League players and one on National League players, alternating the weeks. The last article will be combination of players from both leagues.

Again, I just don't think these players get enough love. Not enough buzz.

And I'm listing some players to target now for next year, as I think they will make great 2023 fantasy baseball targets. The players are not listed in any order of preference. My order is random.

Santiago Espinal, INF, Toronto Blue Jays, age 27

In the prime of his career, right-handed hitting Espinal has virtually carved out an everyday role for himself in a very good Blue Jays lineup.

Santiago was drafted by the Red Sox in the 10th round of the 2016 draft. In 2018, the Red Sox traded him to the Blue Jays for all-around utility player Steve Pearce. That was a huge mistake.

Last year, Espinal came to life, hitting .311/.376/.405/.781 with two homers. He stole six bases. This year, Espinal has played mostly at second base and some at third. He has taken the job once held by Cavan Biggio. A very good contact hitter, Espinal

Today I will begin a new, three-part series where I highlight players from both leagues I believe are still a bit under the radar but deserve fantasy baseball attention.

Fantasy Baseball Team managers may not find these players on the waiver wire, but they are clearly good trade candidates for the second half of the season.

I will do one article on American League players and one on National League players, alternating the weeks. The last article will be combination of players from both leagues.

Again, I just don't think these players get enough love. Not enough buzz.

And I'm listing some players to target now for next year, as I think they will make great 2023 fantasy baseball targets. The players are not listed in any order of preference. My order is random.

Santiago Espinal, INF, Toronto Blue Jays, age 27

In the prime of his career, right-handed hitting Espinal has virtually carved out an everyday role for himself in a very good Blue Jays lineup.

Santiago was drafted by the Red Sox in the 10th round of the 2016 draft. In 2018, the Red Sox traded him to the Blue Jays for all-around utility player Steve Pearce. That was a huge mistake.

Last year, Espinal came to life, hitting .311/.376/.405/.781 with two homers. He stole six bases. This year, Espinal has played mostly at second base and some at third. He has taken the job once held by Cavan Biggio. A very good contact hitter, Espinal goes to the plate to hit. He won't walk much but he'll put the ball in play. He'll deliver a nice batting average but don't look for home runs.

Andrew Vaughn, OF/1B, Chicago White Sox, age 24

Still having to prove himself to be an everyday player, right-handed hitting Vaughn is earning much more respect from his manager as a true power hitting force at the plate.

Vaughn has finally earned a role as the No. 2 hitter for Tony La Russa. He plays both left and right fields, but he is finally playing every day. That may change when Eloy Jimenez returns, but I would think not. Vaughn was a first-round draft pick for the White Sox in 2019. He was the No. 3 player taken overall in the draft. He received a hefty signing bonus of $7,221,200.

Vaughn did get playing time last year, but he should have been a fixture in the White Sox lineup. In his 469 plate appearances over 127 games, he hit 15 homers and drove in 48 runs. This year, He is hitting home runs, driving in some runs and is hitting for a very solid batting average. He has a chance to end the season as a 30 home run, .300 hitter.

Vaughn hitting second in the lineup is a good thing for his fantasy managers, as he should get an extra at-bat every game. A good contact hitter, Vaughn puts the ball in play. He doesn't strike out much, and he can barrel the ball out of any park. There are a lot of first base and outfield options for fantasy managers, so Vaughn often gets ignored. But he'll just keep on improving and delivering for our fantasy teams.

Jorge Mateo, SS/OF, Baltimore Orioles, age 27

Mateo is clearly one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball. He can go to his right and into the hole better than most. But he can also help his Orioles team and our fantasy teams on offense. In some leagues, Mateo may also be eligible in the outfield, as he has played there for Baltimore. However, his primary role is at shortstop.

Mateo is a stolen base target. If your league hasn't found Mateo yet, I'd be surprised. But I'm including him here more for next year's drafts. When considering on-base and stolen base categories, think of Mateo.

Mateo hits ninth in the batting order and he serves as a catalyst for the top of the order. I believe Mateo will steal 30 bases this year. Maybe more. That's very relevant for fantasy managers. His on-base percentage isn't as good so far as last year, when he ended at .328 in 32 games. But he is playing more now, so that OBP may be lower.

So far, Mateo has some strike-outs in his game. He isn't making as much contact as he has in his past. But the stolen bases will continue. When he does get on base, he is a threat to steal every time.

I include Mateo today because I think he will have a big second half of the season, improving at the plate, getting on base, stealing bases and scoring runs. Don't look for home runs or RBIs.

Andres Gimenez, SS/2B, Cleveland Guardians, age 23

So far, manager Terry Francona has been using the left-handed hitting Gimenez only against right-handed pitching. I think that's a huge mistake. Gimenez is a superb, natural hitter with plenty of pop in his bat. He will never learn to hit lefties unless and until Francona sets him loose. And I don't see that coming. Huge mistake.

I was in the press box when Gimenez hit Eutaw Street on the fly at Camden Yards in Baltimore. That drive went more than 400 feet. For those who don't know, Eutaw Street is beyond the right field wall and sits in front of a factory that serves as the Orioles offices.

Gimenez has outstanding power in his 5-11 frames. He is improving as a hitter right in front of our eyes. All he needs is opportunity.

Gimenez could easily finish the season hitting at or close to .300 with an on-base percentage at or near .325. For a middle infielder, his power will continue to set him apart. He may hit 20 home runs this year mand then add on in subsequent years.

Gimenez is a wizard with the glove. He has great range, a superb arm and to my way of thinking, he should be the Guardians every game shortstop. Instead, Francona insists on playing Amed Rosario at short and Gimenez at second, when Gimenez is in the game. Those roles should be reversed.

If you use Gimenez in fantasy, you should see doubles, triples and home runs as well as a good batting average. He may score some runs, but the Guardians are streaky in that department.

Ty France, 1B/2B/3B, Seattle Mariners, age 27

Fantasy managers know about Ty France, but he clearly doesn't get the buzz he deserves. Perhaps he lacks the publicity because he plays on a really struggling Mariners teams.

The San Diego Padres drafted France in the 34th round of the 2015 draft. It is very, very rare for a 34th round draft pick to even make the big leagues, let alone succeed as France has done.

The Padres traded France to the Mariners in 2020 in a seven-player deal that sent four Padres to the Mariners. The biggest name going back to San Diego was catcher Austin Nola.

Even though France showed he could hit, the Padres never gave him a chance. Why? They didn't have money invested in him, as they did in other players. So, they traded him.

France is having a huge year, as he is playing regularly and hitting the ball. He has power, a sweet line-drive swing from the right side of the plate, and he can drive in runs and score runs. Beware, however, he won't provide much, if anything, in the stolen base category.

When I saw him last week in Baltimore, France was hitting out of the two-hole, right in front of Julio Rodriguez. With Jesse Winker not hitting a lick, France would be an ideal leadoff hitter in a lineup I created.

I look for Ty France to continue to improve as a hitter, and he'll likely make the All Star team. He's another guy to target for 2023 drafts, as many fantasy managers will forget about him.

Andrew Benintendi, OF, Kansas City Royals, age 27

Left-handed hitting Benintendi will turn 28 in July. He is one of only a few Royals players having a good year. In fact, I include Benintendi here because I think he will be traded to a contender. That will increase his fantasy value.

Benintendi started out on fire in his rookie year with the Red Sox. He was the seventh player taken overall in the 2015 draft. Benintendi was given a $3,590,400 signing bonus by Boston. They traded him in 2021 in a three-team trade that included Boston, Kansas City and the New York Mets.

So far this year, Benintendi is having his best year at the plate. Hitting over .300 with a tremendous on-base percentage, Benintendi remains mostly a singles hitter. However, he makes excellent contact, and, if he is traded, it is likely his runs scored will improve.

So by putting Benintendi on a fantasy roster, a manager should be able to bank a good batting average, good on-base percentage and good runs-scored numbers. Power and stolen bases will lack. He's just not running as he once did. Maybe that changes with a new team.

While he isn't a popular fantasy target, I think this is the year to try to roster him and hope his hot hitting continues. But one caution here: If he goes to a National League club, there will be a learning curve regarding new pitchers he'll have to face. That could cut in to his fantasy value.

Or, he may not be traded at all.

HEADING HOME:

Last week, I saw four games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, one of my favorite places to watch a game from the press box.

I saw the Mariners for two and the Guardians for two.

To me, the most striking change from my last visit was evident immediately. The Orioles moved the left field wall back almost 30 feet and raised the wall 13 feet. The net result: They have punished hitters like Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander. While I was there, Mancini hit two balls just short of the wall — both would have been long gone last year. Santander hit one.

The move was made to help the woeful pitching staff. Well, the woeful pitching staff is still woeful. The new wall dimensions haven't helped them. So all it has done is hurt their offense.

I am surprised at how poorly the Mariners Jesse Winker is hitting. He did barrel some balls in Baltimore, but he is a dead pull hitter, and the shift has hurt him. Badly.

Phil Nevin takes over the club from the dugout. He'll be there the rest of the season. And if he succeeds, I think the job will be his.

On July 5, 1947, Larry Doby broke the color barrier with the Cleveland Indians in the American League. It never gets the same publicity as when Jackie Robinson broke in with the Dodgers. I get that. I understand that. But Larry Doby was a trail blazer. He endured the same racial hatred and slurs as Jackie. It was tough. Very tough. And he went on to be a tremendous center fielder and a slugger, carving out a Hall of Fame career.

My road grey autographed Larry Doby uniform stares at me every day from a safe place in a shadow box in my office. His Hall of Fame plaque and a Cleveland Indians scorecard from that era surround his uniform.

In an adjacent shadow box is a home white uniform of Cleveland Indians player/manager Lou Boudreau. The uniform was autographed for me, and he also has a Hall of Fame plaque and a scorecard from that era, as well as autographed pictures in the shadow box.

Once at a card show I attended, a fan showed Lou Boudreau a bat. Boudreau recognized it right away and tears rolled down his face. It was a bat used by Boudreau in the 1948 World Series. He autographed the bat for the fan. It was an incredible moment.

Thank you for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff and for reading my work at Forbes.

Have a great week.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bernie Pleskoff
Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.
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